For the last few decades, there has been a growing narrative around the harmful nature of paper products and their impact on the environment. However, if you pay attention to modern “green” enthusiasts, you’ll notice that they want increased consumption of paper products over the plastic everyone has grown accustomed to. At first glance, that seems like a pretty big contradiction.

Fortunately, there are actually several good points for ditching plastic bags and moving back to paper instead.

For a bit more clarification, we’ve set up this brief primer.

Let’s get started.

1: Tree Alternatives

The biggest problem with paper, regardless of what product it’s used for, is that it traditionally comes from trees. Loggers would, and sometimes still do, cut down massive swathes of forest regions, the trees are ground into a pulp, mixed with a glue solution, and then pressed into sheets of paper. Over time, that led to quite a few problems with deforestation.

However, that’s not necessary, anymore. We don’t actually need trees to make paper at all.

In fact, you’ve probably already heard about how hemp can replace tree-based paper and even wood in many situations. However, the legality of hemp in certain places, and its need for large amounts of water to grow it in effective amounts, keep it from being a one-size-fits-all solution.

Well, paper can also be made from various forms of seaweed. In fact, many paper bags are made from an invasive species of seaweed that actively destroys coastal habitats and grows rapidly on its own.

By using such paper alternatives, companies can make paper bags that are not only far less destructive than plastic, but also actively help coastal environments by getting rid of dangerous plant species.

Because of this, you’ll be seeing a lot of seaweed bags in grocery stores and other storefronts in the years to come.

2: Responsible Harvesting   

As we just said, new alternatives to tree-based paper remove all the worries associated with deforestation and paper bags. However, even when trees are used, they can still be far less destructive than plastic.

With sustainable harvesting practices, it’s possible to use trees for a minority of paper products without causing undue harm to the environment. Things such as using fast-growing species, planting trees specifically for paper harvesting, minimizing waste, and of course, replanting more than what is harvested, can all be done to tremendous effect.  

In comparison, there really is no environmentally-friendly way to use plastic. Even with recycling efforts, most of it ends up in landfills or sprawled across city streets. So, even if trees are used, it’s more of a question of whether or not they’re used responsibly.

3: Reusability

Paper bags aren’t as durable as plastic bags. That’s just a fact of life. However, they are still reusable. As long as you don’t get the bags too wet, tear them, or overload them, you can easily use paper bags for several grocery trips without having to toss them in the recycling bin.

Besides, let’s not pretend too many people are recycling plastic bags or reusing them, anyways. There’s a reason they’re all over the environment.

Paper Bags are Better

When made properly, paper bags aren’t just great alternatives to plastic; they also actively help the environment. Don’t stick to tradition and pack a bunch of plastic into landfills. Switch to sustainably sourced paper bags, today.                                                                                                

Zoe Kickhefer